I have always said that if I was offered a trip to Japan, but would have to stay in my hotel room the whole time except when going out to eat, it would still be a great trip and totally worth it. Japanese food is amazing.
Such a focus on quality ingredients, and the preparation of those ingredients. Always a focus on doing things perfect. The result is always incredible. I have never, with one exception, had a bad meal in Japan.
On my first visit to Japan I was travelling with a friend from France. One night we went to a French restaurant. He took one bite of his food, was quiet for a while before he looked up at me. ‘They even make French food better than us.’
When it comes to eating in Japan it is always a feast. That is if you are not too picky about what you eat.
The most famous Japanese food must be sushi. Lately sushi has become very popular in the west, in Norway new sushi restaurants are popping up all the time. Sushi in Japan is different though. This is the real thing. The focus is on the fish and the rice, with a dash of wasabi. Not all those other ingredients, avocado, chili mayo and such that the western palate seems to like. I prefer the original, Japanese-style sushi. I’ve had many great sushi meals during my travels in Japan. One of the best I had was in Otaru, a small port town just west of Sapporo, in Hokkaido.
For a great book on sushi check out The Story of Sushi by Trevor Corson.
Other Japanese food
Japanese food is so much more than sushi though. The Japanese kitchen has countless other dishes on offer.
My personal favorite is ramen, a noodle soup with wheat noodles, some egetables and meat. There are countless ramen restaurants in Japan, and it rarely goes three days in Japan where I don’t visit one. In Sapporo there is even a Ramen Street, a whole street with nothing but ramen restaurants. Ramen has started to become popular in the rest of the world as well, in 2015 I visited Shoryu Ramen, a ramen restaurant in London.
Another dish I discovered while visiting Sapporo was soup curry, a curry but also a soup. It was the perfect dish on a cold winter day, spicy, warming and so tasty.
In Hiroshima, the local favorite is Okonomiyaki, often called Japanese pancakes. Pancake batter mixed with various vegetables and meat, all grilled on a hot plate in front of you, a feast for the stomach and the eyes. In Osaka the the Okonomiyaki is cooked differently, leading to the endless discussion of what is best, Osaka-Style Okonomiyaki or Hiroshimayaki.
Japanese breakfast can also be a feast. Miso soup, various fish, pickled vegtables, a boiled egg. A great way to have Japanese breakfast is while staying in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn.
Fo lunch you can’t go wrong with a Bento Box, Japan’s answer to our boring lunch box. A tasty and filling meal, bento are sold at all train stations and super markets.
Japan also has some great street food. You will always find some stalls around, selling various kinds of street foods. The best places to find good street food is usually at temples or at festival, when the selection of different street food can be enourmous. If visiting Osaka, Dotombori Street is a great place to go for some tasty street food.
The Western food I have also found to be very tasty in Japan. While visiting Nagoya in October 2012 I had the best burger of my life.
If visiting Japan make sure to try as much different food as possible. Try something new, something you’ve never tried before. Wander down back alleys and find the restaurants the locals are using.